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IMPORTANT BIBLE TOPICS

Moses as a type of Christ

Bullrushes Photograph by Elijah Mears at Unsplash

What is a type? As we have seen in previous articles in the series, the idea of a type is that of a prototype or forerunner. So when we see someone compared to Jesus Christ, we can note certain similarities in the lives of Bible characters that point forward to his life and mission. Different characters will foreshadow different aspects of the life and work of our saviour. In this article we will look at Moses, and how his life gave us glimpses or insights into Jesus' life. Moses was an Israelite from the tribe of Levi. The name Moses was given to him by Pharaoh's daughter, who adopted him (Exodus 2:1-10). It is interesting that the name has relevance in both Egyptian and Hebrew. It's from the Egyptian words mo meaning water and mes meaning child. In Hebrew it's from the verb masha meaning to extract from water. This name refers directly to the early event in Moses' life, when he was placed in a floating basket in the River Nile and entrusted to God, because his parents were not allowed to keep him.

Moses' life in brief

Although Moses grew up in the household of an Egyptian princess, he was nursed by his real mother. This meant that he was well aware of his heritage, even as he was being groomed in the Egyptian court, possibly to assume some princely role. However, there is no mention of what that might have been, even though he was there until he was 40 years old. The New Testament records that:

  • "Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds" (Acts 7:22).

Briefly:

  • When Moses was 40 he killed an Egyptian and fled to Midian (Acts 7:23-29).
  • He settled with the family of Jethro, a priest, and married Jethro's daughter, Zipporah, in Midian and had two sons (Acts 7:29).
  • When he was 80 (Acts 7:30), "Yahweh, the God of Israel, called to him out of a burning bush and told him he must return to Egypt and rescue the Israelites from the oppression they were suffering as slaves there" (Exodus 3:1-10).

After a succession of plagues on Egypt, Pharaoh eventually let the Israelites leave and they headed for the land (now called Israel) promised to their ancestor Abraham. After forty more years, travelling through the wilderness of Sinai, a rash outburst of temper, and failing to give God the glory for the provision of water, meant that Moses was prevented by God from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 34:1-5). It may seem a harsh punishment for someone who had faithfully served God for so many years, but

  • (a) it was a lesson for the other Israelites and
  • (b) there was a lot of work to do,
  • and it was time for the next generation to take over.

The account of Moses' life ends with the divine assessment of his character in these words: "But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face..."

  • Deuteronomy 34:10.

There are many similarities demonstrating that Moses was a true 'type' of Jesus Christ. In the table overleaf are some of the most obvious ones:

  • From the splendour of Egypt, through the torrid wilderness of Sinai, Moses led his people for 40 years toward the Promised Land
  • Photograph by Simon Berger on Unsplash
EventMosesJesus
Both survived
massacres of infant
boys through the actions
of their parents
By being placed in the
river Nile in an 'ark'.
(Exodus 2:3)
By being taken to Egypt
(Matthew 2:13)
Both came out of EgyptMoses led the
Israelites out of Egypt
(Exodus 12:41)
Jesus' parents brought him
out of Egypt when the
threat from Herod had
passed (Hosea 11:1;
Matthew 2:15)
Both were lawgiversGod gave the Law to
Moses, who wrote it on
stone tablets
(Deuteronomy 31:9)
Jesus gave new
commandments, based on
the spirit, rather than the
letter of the Law (John
13:34)
Both communed with
God on a mountain.
Receiving the Law from
God on Mount Sinai
(Exodus 19 & 24)
The transfiguration: A
vision of Moses appeared
to Jesus along with Elijah
(Matthew 17:1-3)
Both had a close
relationship with God.
"the LORD spoke to
Moses face to face, as a
man speaks to his
friend" (Exodus 33:11)
Jesus called Almighty God
'Father' and prayed to him
constantly. More
importantly, God answered
him (John 12:28) God called
Jesus his beloved Son
(Matthew 3:17)
Both faced opposition
– people turning away
and no longer following.
Worshipping a golden
calf (Exodus 32:1-8)
Demanding other food
(Numbers 11:4-6).
Would not accept Jesus'
teachings (John 6:52,
59-64)
Both faced opposition
from their own family
Miriam and Aaron
criticise Moses for
marrying a Cushite
(Numbers 12:1-2)
The brothers of Jesus do
not believe in him. (John
7:4-6)
Both clashed with the
authorities
Constant battle with
Pharaoh to let the
people go! (Exodus 4:21;
7:3; 14:4)
Contending with the
religious teachers (Luke
5:21,30, 9:22) Jewish
council tried to condemn
Jesus (Matthew 26:59-60)
Both had a 'last Supper'Before leaving Egypt –
the Passover meal
(Exodus 12)
With his disciples, before
his arrest and execution
(Luke 22: 7-20)
Both performed
miracles (or had
miracles performed
through them)
Water from the rock
(Exodus 17:6, Numbers
20:8) Parting of the sea
(Exodus 14:21) etc.
(Mark 6:2) Performed signs
and wonders (John 7:31)
Multiple events in Jesus'
life (John 21:25)

Conclusions

Out of all these similarities between Moses and Jesus, we can perhaps focus on just three:

  • leading their people out of slavery.
  • giving a Law or Covenant.
  • initiating a significant meal of remembrance.

Out of Slavery

We might not know exactly what it was like to be a slave in ancient Egypt, but, at the very least, it was forced labour and lack of liberty. Moses was tasked to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to freedom. We may not be slaves in the literal sense, but, as the Scriptures plainly spell out, we are slaves to our sinful natures: "... we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin."

  • Romans 7:14

"Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.""

  • John 8:34

However, we are still subject to sin, but if we are "in Christ", sin no longer has ultimate power over us, as the words of the Apostle Paul show: "For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: "DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP in victory. WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR VICTORY? WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

  • 1 Corinthians 15:53-57 (NASB)

We can see here the direct parallel between the work of Moses and the work of Jesus.

Giving a Law or Covenant

The Law that God gave to Moses started with 10 straightforward commandments. This was added to and elaborated, particularly to do with worship and food, although it covered just about every aspect of daily life. There were also penalties given for breaking any law, most usually a sacrifice but occasionally the ultimate penalty – death by stoning.

The Law that Moses was given provided no lasting solution for sin, only a temporary fix. Each Israelite would continue to sin and would continue to offer sacrifices for those sins. Under the Law of Moses, the high priest entered the Most Holy place of the tabernacle, once every year on the Day of Atonement, to obtain forgiveness for himself and the sins of the people (Leviticus 16:29-34). But Jesus instituted a new and better law or covenant with a permanent solution for sin, atoned for by his own sacrifice (the Hebrew word translated atone literally means "to cover over"). We read in the letter to the Hebrews:

"But Christ came as high priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption."

  • Hebrews 9:11-12

Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses perfectly because he was sinless and he took it out of the way through his death, "having nailed it to the cross'"

  • Colossians 2:14

So, it is very clear in the giving of the Law that Moses was a 'type' or forerunner of Jesus.

Initiating a significant meal of remembrance.

Before the Israelites were allowed to leave Egypt there was a series of plagues, the last of which was the death of the firstborn: "...at midnight ... the LORD struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of livestock."

  • Exodus 12:29

The angel of death that God sent was told to "pass over" the houses of the Israelites, which is how the meal came to be named the Passover. The Israelite houses were identified by blood daubed round the doorway. The blood was from a lamb that was sacrificed, and was the main ingredient of the Passover meal that the Israelites ate in haste before leaving on their journey.

Jesus and his disciples met together to celebrate the Passover meal, to which Jesus gave a new significance, linking his own body and blood to the bread and the wine:

"Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare, that you may eat the Passover?"" - the Passover lamb is also a powerful symbol of Jesus, but we will not digress right now. "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, "This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many"."

  • Mark 14.12

So the meal pointed forward to the sacrifice of Jesus, just as the Passover meal instituted by Moses did.

and finally...

We are not alone in seeing the strong similarities between Moses and Jesus. The writer to the Hebrews saw it as well, and showed that Moses pointed forward to Jesus as a 'type', in Hebrews chapter three:

  1. "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,"
  2. "who was faithful to him who appointed him, as Moses also was faithful in all his house."
  3. "For this one has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who built the house has more honour than the house."
  4. "For every house is built by someone, but he who built all things is God."
  5. "And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterwards,"
  6. "but Christ as a son over his own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end."

We are grateful as ever for the clear and consistent message of hope contained in the Scriptures for our guidance and encouragement.

Author Andrew Longman
Milton Keynes, UK
Source Light on a New World reprint from Volume 33.1

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